Last Friday’s announcement that a new offshore racing organization called the Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix, which plans to have a five-race series in 2015, is in for next year’s Sarasota (Fla.) Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix and longtime sanctioning body Super Boat International is out created a firestorm in the high-performance powerboat racing world. Supporters of the new organization have said that change is long overdue, while SBI loyalists and representatives of other organizations maintain that a new offshore racing body is the last thing the already factionalized sport needs. From those of racers to fans, neutral opinions on the subject remain hard to find.
Last Friday’s announcement of a new sanctioning body for the Sarasota Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix has sparked widespread controversy in the offshore powerboat racing world. Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image.
According to a public record, Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix, Inc., was incorporated in Orlando, Fla., on March 10, 2014. Stephen Curtis, the United States representative and throttleman for the Spirit of Qatar team, is listed as the president of the corporation, while Gro Helgreson, also affiliated with the team as a former spokeswoman, is listed as the vice president.
Reached by in England by telephone this morning, Curtis explained the corporation was set up by an accounting firm and that he allowed his name to be used to get it started. As he did in Friday’s story, he stated that the Spirit of Qatar team had no part in funding the new offshore racing organization and that he would shortly be resigning his presidency now that OPGP had landed its first race site.
“They wanted to use my name, so I asked Sheikh Hassan (the leader of the Spirit of Qatar team) if that was OK and he said, ‘Fine, go ahead,'” said Curtis. “I am going to resign as president as soon as possible—I don’t know how long these things take—because the Qatar team may race on the circuit. That will depend on the venues they secure, but regardless a competitor cannot run and can compete in the same circuit. It just doesn’t work. The last they want is me as president. The organization will be set up with a board of directors, including board members from boat and engine companies, and I will not sit on the board.
“A drink sponsor—not Qatar—put in some money to set up the corporation,” he continued. “They won’t be the series sponsor, but they certainly will be a sponsor that will be visible at all the races.”
Curtis reiterated that while the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing teams do plan to compete in Sarasota next year, the have not to committed to the entire OPGP circuit, which at this point has not published an official schedule for 2015.
“The Qatar team hasn’t said they are going to race the series yet,” said Curtis. “That will depend on the venues and if they can do what they say they’re going to do.”